Dharma Glimpse by Maria Chumak A colleague of mine once said that everybody was entitled to one big phobia in their lives. My husband Steve is petrified of snakes. My phobia is deep waters. I can’t swim (not properly anyway) and I’m absolutely terrified of drowning. My parents say this has actually nothing to do with water as such, but with a severe respiratory illness I had as a child, one I could have died of, had I not been brought to the hospital in time. So my brain manifested a fear of suffocating as a fear of drowning. I forced myself into a swimming school in my 20s to face it and they did teach me the basics, but in a way made my fear even worse. When all my friends went holidaying to the seaside, I’d hide away mountain hiking. I do appreciate the irony of the Universe in that I moved from landlocked mainland to live on an island - I used to get chills when flying over the Channel on a plane! However, once moving here I made it my task to get to know the Sea. My relationship with it was complex - I admired its power and the vital role in pretty much all life and the ecosystem of our planet, and it also is just so gorgeously beautiful. But I was still petrified! So I travelled to various beaches around the country, from highly cultivated to the remote places in Wales, the little gaps in the cliffs you can only get to in low tide and with certain climbing skills. I went to the edge of the water, making deep breaths, and looked at the Sea. I listened to it. I learned about the tides and to anticipate the weather changes. It eventually culminated with me ending up in Aberystwyth during one nasty storm in 2020 just before the first lockdown, with 90 mph gales and waves all over the promenade. (You can see the photos attached!) What I realise now, being by the Sea again at the moment in Pembrokeshire, is that our phobia should not be a Nemesis - it is in fact an opportunity to learn. Why do we fear what we fear? Can we mitigate it, turn it around? Can the irrational part be tuned down with more knowledge of the subject (like I never head out to wild beach walks without checking tide times)? In the end of the day fear is what we bring with us, it is inside us and not out there in this thing that we fear. I often meditate upon my fear and learn that there is a part of me that gets more and more fascinated with its subject, almost as if a part of me used to deny a whole raft of experiences because of it. Even though I still can’t swim! Namo Amida Bu 🙏 Maria
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